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Board of Ed Votes to Apply for Pre-Labor Day School-Start Waiver

October 11, 2016

As expected, the Montgomery County Board of Education will apply for a waiver to begin the school year before Labor Day in opposition to the executive order signed by Maryland Governor Larry Hogan in August mandating that all schools in the State of Maryland should start after Labor Day.

   On Monday, the Board approved a resolution stating its preference to adopt a calendar for the 2017-2018 school year that would begin prior to Labor Day, contingent upon a waiver approval from the Maryland State Board of Education. The school year would begin on Monday, August 28, 2017, and would end on Thursday, June 14, 2018, if the waiver is granted.

   In August, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan issued an executive order that mandates all Maryland public schools start after Labor Day, conclude by June 15, and include 180 days of instruction. The Board has asked Superintendent Jack R. Smith to apply to the State Board for a waiver of the start date before Labor Day. Governor Hogan’s executive order provided school districts with the option of applying for a waiver.

   MCPS and the Board of Education opposed Hogan’s plan and released a statement to that effect as the Governor was signing the executive order. “We strongly oppose any attempt to usurp local decision-making around school calendars,” said Montgomery County Board of Education President Michael Durso at the time. “Prohibiting schools from starting before Labor Day ignores critical issues faced by schools and the potential negative instructional impact on students. Determining the school calendar is complicated and requires balancing educational requirements, operational issues, and unique community needs all in the interest of students. As a key stakeholder and the largest school district in the state, we are disappointed that the Governor and Comptroller did not include us in their dialogue on this issue.”

   However, the Executive Order does permit for a waiver to be applied for with the Maryland State Department of Education to be exempt from the post-Labor Day start date. For the 2017-2018 school year and beyond, local school systems will have to apply annually for a waiver based on compelling justification.

   The Board’s preferred school calendar option is based on 184 instructional days for students, which is four more than the minimum required by the state of Maryland. The calendar was developed in partnership with the Montgomery County Council of PTAs, the school district’s three employee associations, and the Montgomery County Region of the Maryland Association of Student Councils, as well as other community members and school system leadership.

  Earlier in August that same group proposed starting MCPS classes a full week earlier in 2017. The August 28, 2017, start date — which must be approved by a waiver —  is still a full week after when MCPS Calendar Committee were planning to start the school year before Hogan’s executive order. Earlier this summer, the Calendar Committee of Montgomery County Public Schools proposed that the 2017-2018 school year begins a week earlier on August 21, 2017.

   According to a press release from the Board, the Board believes that this calendar option helps meet the district’s operational, labor relations, and instructional objectives, including, but not limited to: sufficient instructional time for students; reduced loss of learning during an extended summer period; opportunity to preserve instructional time in the event schools are closed for emergencies; essential professional development opportunities for teachers and other school employees; and effective coordination with educational partners for dually enrolled students.

   The release stated that the Board is continuing to explore options for implementing a school year calendar that would begin after Labor Day and end by June 15, 2018, in the event that the State Board does not approve the requested waiver.

   Hogan and supporters of a post-Labor Day school start argue that economic benefits of a post-Labor Day school start have been well documented. A 2013 economic impact study by Maryland’s Bureau of Revenue Estimates found that a post-Labor Day school start could generate an additional $74.3 million in direct economic activity, including $3.7 million in new wages and $7.7 million in state and local tax revenue, according to the release.

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